When then-gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie beat out incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009, many state Democrats wailed against the former U.S. Attorney for the State of New Jersey. At his election party, Christie promised his audience that he was going to “pick Trenton up, and turn it upside down.”
In the four years that have passed since that confident declaration, Christie has gone from likable Republican upstart to state and national hero. Yes, some of these good vibes were no doubt aided by his swift and determined reaction to Hurricane Sandy, yet at his core, the governor has done something few can claim: He is appealing to both Republicans and Democrats.
Throughout his four years, Christie has often made unpopular decisions he felt were in the best interest of the state. In 2011, he instituted a line-item veto that allowed him to make close to $1 billion in budget cuts. What Christie took away at the time, from groups like the teachers union, would pay dividends several years later. In 2013, Christie signed a bill that increased school funding by almost $100 million and put almost $2 billion dollars back into the state pension fund.
Along the way, Christie has proved consistent in his attitude about his hard-nosed form of governing. He has become a viral-video star with how he handles hecklers in public forums and is smart enough to tell reporters that he can’t answer a question because he doesn’t know all the material. This, coupled with his moderate record on social issues (at least compared to some high-profile Republicans) has endeared him to citizens from both sides of the aisle.
As Governor, Christie appointed the first openly gay man to the New Jersey Supreme Court and helped open the first charter-school for autistic children in the state. In recent months, he fought to veto a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state. After the veto was shot down by the Supreme Court, Christie conceded his fight on the grounds that the people of New Jersey had made their decision.
When the nation was clamoring for him to join the Romney ticket in 2012, Christie reportedly declined because he feared Romney didn’t have a chance. Rather than further catapult himself to the national spotlight, Christie stuck with the citizens of New Jersey and saw them through what was to be a troubling year ahead.
On the campaign trail in 2013, Christie has stuck by his fiscal conservative notions, and has regularly slammed Obamacare. Along the way he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Hispanic and African-American voter outreach programs. In the last year, his approval rating has regularly been in the high 60s and low 70s, formerly familiar to President Barack Obama.
If he is to run for President in 2016, odds are Christie would need to continue to capitalize on his growing reputation as a Republican moderate. With polls showing the nation’s opinion on the GOP plummeting to historic levels, Christie’s appeal amongst Democrats and Independents would need to materialize on the national level. Christie has received the endorsement of close to 60 prominent New Jersey Democratic officials. Christie has even seen the generally unseen Republican celebrity endorsement in a campaign ad featuring Shaquille O’Neal.
In a report from ABC News, John Weingart, the associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, noted Christie’s personality has been key to his bipartisan appeal.
“I think people are seeing him as a leader and that seems to be a desired quality that trumps some policy differences that Democrats may have with him,” Weingart said. “He gives the impression of someone who is completely in charge of state government and running it well and making decisions. … People are hungry for that in a politician or in an elected official.” Weingart told ABC. Recent campaign mailers have highlighted this appeal.
The road to the White House is a long one, and one that Christie may not even embark on. If the governor can continue to capitalize on the low public opinion of his party, his growing momentum could lead to serious national appeal.
- Chris Christie gets a baller endorsement (rare.us)